2010-10-10 - . . .Our church now honors two men . . .
As the New York Guild of Catholic Lawyers meets in our church each month, it was fitting a few years ago that Cardinal Egan dedicated a shrine here to St. Thomas More, patron of lawyers. Last Monday, at a Red Mass invoking the Holy Spirit’s protection of our law courts and those who administer justice, Archbishop Dolan invoked the patronage of More and also placed a relic in our new shrine of Blessed John Henry Newman, the first such in our country. Our church now honors two men comparable in the way they witnessed to the Catholic faith by the elegance of their use of the English language and the eloquence of their holiness. As St. Thomas More means much to lawyers and statesman, so I hope that the Newman shrine will be a place of prayer for those converting to the Faith of the Fathers, and for scholars, especially our schoolchildren and college students.
On September 17 in London, two days before beatifying Newman, Pope Benedict XVI stood in Westminster Hall on the spot where More was sentenced to death, and reminded the assembled national leaders: “He followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ‘good servant’ he was, because he chose to serve God first.” In the home of the world’s oldest parliament, the Pope said: “If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident—herein lies the real challenge for democracy.”
Our Red Mass was followed by a reception across the street in the Union League Club. Theodore Roosevelt became a member there in 1884, having been blackballed in 1881, possibly because his mother had been a Confederate sympathizer, but, others say, because he was considered too rambunctious. In the library of his house in Oyster Bay, he hung pictures of St. Thomas More and his fellow martyr St. John Fisher. Although Roosevelt was not Catholic, he knew virtue and would have assented to Pope Benedict’s words in Westminster Hall: “The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times [was] the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God…”
Roosevelt Field on Long Island was named for Teddy’s son Quentin, who was killed in France at the end of World War I at the age of twenty. When the President died the next year, the closing prayer at his funeral was Quentin’s favorite lines of Newman, from a sermon of 1843: “May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done! Then in His mercy may He give us safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last!”